A Review of 2021 Labor & Employment Legislation in California

The 2021 California legislative session saw the passage of a number of new labor and employment laws. Although many relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature adopted more nonpandemic-related statutes this term as compared to 2020.  

On the COVID-19 front, the Legislature both updated laws passed in 2020 and enacted new legislation. For example, the Legislature updated COVID-19 reporting requirements and sanitation procedures for employers, although it also exempted new sectors from the reporting requirements. Additionally, in response to worker layoffs because of the pandemic, the Legislature adopted a "right of recall" for employees in the hospitality industry. 

The Legislature was also active on wage and hour issues. Perhaps most notably, the Legislature designated intentional "theft of wages" as grand theft under the Penal Code, potentially subjecting violators to jail time. In addition, the Legislature has mandated disclosure of work quotas in warehouse distribution centers, and it is phasing out sub-minimum wages for mentally and physically disabled workers in the coming years.  

Other new and amended statutes will require employers to update their internal documents and revisit company policies and practices. For instance, the Legislature put further restrictions on the language employers can include in settlement, nondisparagement, and separation agreements. The Legislature also amended the state's recordkeeping laws, requiring employers to keep certain employment records for four years instead of two years.

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